Three women sit around on computers having a laugh

It has been an amazing plus for me to be working in the industry I have, writes by Helen Hawthorn, Head of Solution Engineering, EMEA at Zoom.

As a woman, I was able to work from home when pregnant and during the early years of my child’s upbringing. This allowed me to be able to drop my child at school every day and pick her up. The ability not to miss out on concerts and sports days is not something that I take lightly.

It is amazing that the technology that I help place into businesses is the same one that has enabled me to not only work effectively but also still go into a management position. I do not believe without this I would have been able to.

How are women innovating and making their mark in the tech industry, and what barriers do they still face?

I feel that women bring a very different mindset when speaking to customers and how technology will affect their business, not only from a financial perspective but also the day-to-day lives of their employees. We find it easier to place ourselves in the shoes of the very people that technology normally helps. To enable the table to become bigger and include people from different backgrounds to be part of decision-making processes.

I still find the biggest barrier is the ‘old boys club’, which is inevitable as they have been in this industry for so long. The only way to break that down is to keep feeding the funnel, the more we get girls involved earlier the more leaders we will have in future generations.

How can technology be used to address gender-based issues? As a leader, what steps are you taking to drive change?

I touched on this previously, there are many things that women face that mean working in a more remote way, and being able to juggle working at different hours helps. As a leader, I drive the thought process that 9-5 is not the way we work. I try to help drive people to work at their best, which could mean starting earlier or working later – it is their output that I am interested in. Of course in sales we still need to be mindful of our customers, but generally, I have found that giving people the right tools and treating them as adults drives the right output and a bond with a company that made that possible.

From what you have seen since you started your career, how has the tech landscape evolved when it comes to inclusivity?

It’s been a long career, there are so many different paths to take now within technology! When I started in this industry, I was a novelty, especially when they found out I actually knew what I was talking about. I never felt blocked at any stage, it was when going into management that I actually found the difference.

I do see many more women coming into the industry but this seems to be focused on the sales side. I would love to see a bigger drive in articulating some of the unknown jobs that women excel in, for instance, my background in Solution Engineering. One girl I remember as I explained what I did said, “so you are like a shopper for IT”! Although maybe a little simplistic, it stuck with her and made her want to go look into how it could happen for her.

How can we ensure that women and girls are not left behind in the digital age?

I think this is a much larger question in relation to society itself and how we both encourage women in STEM and keep them there. More explanation of all the roles which can be taken and a drive in school to ensure technology is used in all subjects.

What can tech players do to support and promote the participation of women in the digital economy?

Start early, ensure we have the correct apprenticeship schemes, find buddies and go into the schools.